Juxtapose: Tories had loads of cash for junketing flunkies, none at all for dying addicts

Posted on January 12, 2016, 1:40 am
8 mins

PHOTOS: Alberta Progressive Conservatives enjoy an “international travel mission” during the Golden Age of Tory Travel. Actual PC staffers may not have appeared exactly as illustrated. Below: New Democrats Trevor Horne, the MLA for Spruce Grove-St. Albert and Health Minister Sarah Hoffman, and Stephen Mandel, the last PC health minister.

Juxtapose: In the first half of last year, Alberta’s former Progressive Conservative Government had plenty of money for official air travel, but none at all to save the lives of their fellow citizens struggling with drug addictions.

Two news stories published yesterday invite comparisons, sending a troubling message about the Alberta PCs, and conservatives in general, revealing them as both entitled and heartless, and not terribly competent to boot.

TrevorThe first story, reported exclusively by the CBC, was the revelation the PCs under then-premier Jim Prentice refused a federal offer of $1.4 million in drug treatment funding at a time when Fentanyl was killing an Alberta citizen every day, the highest rate in Canada.

Their reason? According to a letter to the feds by a senior Alberta Health official it was “resource restrictions which will inhibit acquiring funding and staff.” That’s bureaucratese meaning they might also have had to spend some of their own budget to save lives at a time when their re-election plan was based on a show of austerity and tight-fistedness.

That didn’t turn out to be much of an election strategy, as readers will recall, but back in the spring of 2015 when Tory health minister Stephen Mandel was saying “no thanks” to Ottawa’s paltry offering, a lot of people thought it was their key to re-election.

And, let’s face it, at the time there was a strong element of “who cares, they’re just a bunch of junkies” to this story.

As the author of a recent opinion piece in the Globe and Mail rightly observed, if the problem had been gang violence in the streets instead of drug users quietly dying from overdoses from drugs sold by the same gangs, governments would have come up with the money to solve the crisis immediately.

A big part of the problem, wrote Simon Fraser University criminology professor Peter McKnight, was the “medieval attitude toward drugs” by the Conservative federal government led by Stephen Harper, which his Liberal replacement as prime minister, Justin Trudeau, needs to get cracking at dismantling. It’s safe to say the attitudes of the Wildrose Party and the PCs, then and now, are not very different from those of Mr. Harper and his cronies.

SarahThe Prentice PCs’ policy has left Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP Government – which is both more sensible and more humane on this question – with the problem of trying to recover the federal funds the Tories rejected, as well as finding money the Tories refused to budget while dealing with furious claims by the conservative Opposition parties that Alberta is spending too much because times are tough.

Never mind that tough times are precisely when governments need to spend for the sake of the economy. That’s Economics 101. But from the perspective of the drug-caused health crisis Alberta faces, the PC response was both ineffective and irresponsible.

“Every dollar that can be used toward saving a life is a valuable investment in Albertans and the future of our province,” NDP Health Minister Sarah Hoffman told the CBC’s reporter, a simple truth that is apparently difficult for far too many conservatives of any stripe to understand.

Ms. Hoffman said negotiations with Health Canada have resumed in hopes of getting Alberta back into the federal program. Meantime, the province is now funding drug treatment programs and research on its own.

The second news story was the Edmonton Journal’s astonished discovery that the election of an NDP government has resulted in savings of more than $5 million in travel costs now that the days of jet-setting by Tory ministers and their hangers on are over.

MandelThe Journal, not an institution that ever willingly gives credit to a social democratic government, explained the big travel savings away as the result of the election campaign, the subsequent transition and the NDP cabinet’s need to stay close to home and learn how to prepare a budget.

This, of course, is baloney.

Notwithstanding constant propaganda to the contrary, the NDP is simply more responsible with taxpayers’ money than the entitled Tories, who the Wildrosers are now so anxious to swiftly merge into their party.

My local community newspaper revealed yesterday that in the Spruce Grove-St. Albert riding my New Democrat MLA, Trevor Horne, claimed expenses of $33.59 for the six months between the start of April and the end of September! That’s not a typo – the St. Albert Gazette’s story said thirty-three dollars and fifty-nine cents. That would work out to about $5.60 a month.

But then, according to the story, Premier Rachel Notley has been very clear to her MLAs that they’re to be careful with the funds the public has entrusted them with. Many of them are paying for their own meals on the road because they figure they’d eat anyway.

The number of past trips totted up by the Journal’s reporter speak for themselves: The Tories sent MLAs and scores of flunkies on 34 “international travel missions” – read junkets – during 2014. And that was well after Air Redford’s notorious travel binges, which included a single trip that cost $450,000, had largely been grounded.

In 2015, there were only 10 such trips – but six of those took place when the Tories were still in power, before the voters spoke on May 5!

So, at a time there was no money at all to help Albertans and their families facing an epidemic of drug deaths – more than 200 people died from fentanyl overdoses in this province in 2015 – Tory ministers and their flunkies had millions available for jet-setting around the world on unproductive “trade missions.” And I’m sure they didn’t have to stay at the YMCA.

A PC-Wildrose government would put all of this back just the way it was before 2015.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

10 Comments to: Juxtapose: Tories had loads of cash for junketing flunkies, none at all for dying addicts

  1. Rod Adachi

    January 12th, 2016

    This is a sea change from the former Tory regime who represented corporate interests and adopted a corporate entitlement mindset. Of course the ND caucus know how to be frugal with their expenses – their budgeting skills reflect their backgrounds: students, single parents, social workers, artists, etc.- real folks with solid skills honed from lived realities.

    Reply
  2. Student

    January 12th, 2016

    Sad to see how far the Journal has fallen.

    Reply
  3. Filostrato

    January 12th, 2016

    Junketing flunkies – that has a certain ring to it. To them, the rest of the world – or the “hardworking taxpayers”,as the y like to call them – are just the source of a big pile of money that can be extracted and squandered at will.

    I hear that Kevin O’Leary has offered to “invest” $1M in the Alberta oil biz if Rachel Notley resigns. I will leave out the first several words of my reaction to that when I first saw it as unfit for public consumption. Nothing says democracy like buying out politicians you don’t like, eh, Kev? I feel the unsuitable words coming on again…Mr. O’Leary – please…just…go…away.

    http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/01/11/kevin-oleary-promises-1m-to-canadian-oil-if-notley-steps-down.html

    Meanwhile, the newly reconstituted Cons-in-Opposition are having a go at policies – I’m thinking of gazillion dollar arms sales to the beneficent and peaceful kingdom of Saudi Arabia – which they either cheered, promoted or stayed sturdily silent about when they were calling the shots (no pun intended).

    Tony Clement’s immortal words: ““So don’t take the signal from the last government. If you want to be true to your principles and values, which the Conservative Party under new leadership shares, let’s move forward.”

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/tories-press-liberal-government-to-justify-saudi-arms-deal/article28125150/

    Uh-oh. I feel a word storm coming on again. I’d better go.

    Reply
    • Val Jobson

      January 13th, 2016

      I heard a clip on the radio this morning of O’Leary telling Rosie Barton that Notley is not qualified to be premier. How the hell would he know? He didn’t have any rational objections just a rant. I wish CBC would not give him a mic.

      Reply
    • Expat Albertan

      January 13th, 2016

      Does anybody really believe O’Leary’s offer? He knows that Notley will not take him up on it so it’s a safe bet. I almost wish she would so that he could reneg on his offer and show the world the charlatan that he really is.

      As for Tony Clement – I honestly didn’t believe Gazebo Tony could sink any lower, but he just proved me wrong.

      Reply
  4. Expat Albertan

    January 12th, 2016

    $33 bucks and change? I’m impressed! If only Postmedia newspapers would publish this information – but then, of course, that would upset the prejudices of their readers who have drunk the conservative kool-aid that all governments other than the Conservatives are nothing but wasters of taxpayer dollars. Sadly, I have a feeling that doing the right thing with tax dollars won’t help the NDP electorally (for the reasons stated), but then one should do the right thing anyway, regardless of whether or not one receives recognition. Bravo Rachel!

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      January 12th, 2016

      Remember, that $33 was for six (6) MONTHS.

      Reply
  5. Bob

    January 12th, 2016

    Let the addicts die on their own. Saves all of our money and takes them off the streets.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      January 12th, 2016

      I have included this response, Bob, just so that readers can see what a little t**d you are. Readers should know that Bob is a regular troll, contributing similar comments using a wide variety of names. By their IP addresses shall ye know them. Every drug addict, and every heartless WRP supporter too, is someone’s son or someone’s daughter. Keeping that in mind will help keep your perceptions in perspective.

      Reply
      • jay

        January 12th, 2016

        Amen.

        Reply

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